Carson’s food service on campus has seen steady improvement in its health department inspections, from the worst in 2006 to the best — with virtually no violations — in its last report six months ago.
A look into open records dated March 2006 through May of this year found a total of 37 health code violations for Carson’s Market Fresh Café and the OCCC Coffee Shop — 31 for the café and six for the coffee shop.
The most serious of the violations — “Evidence of Rodent/Insect Contamination/Other Animals/Outer Openings Protected” — was cited in a March 6, 2006, health inspection report and occurred at Carson’s Market Fresh Café.
Troy Skow, Department of Consumer Protection for OCCHD Field Supervisor, described this as a critical violation.
The most repeated violation has been nine “Cold Hold/Time” and “Hot Hold/Time Control,” which Sharon Chow, Oklahoma City-County Health Department inspector, said occurs when cold temperature foods reach a possible 42 degrees or above and hot temperature foods fall to the 134 degree range or below.
“That is when it enters the ‘danger zone’ and bacteria can grow the fastest,” Chow said.
According to the Health Department website, both of those violations “directly relate to causes of food borne illness.”
Chow has been a health inspector for OCCHD since 2003. She has written health inspections for OCCC for the last two years.
Of those violations, eight were reported at Carson’s Market Fresh Café while one was found at the OCCC Coffee Shop in November 2008.
When asked what could cause this type of violation, Chow said faulty equipment could be to blame.
“Sometimes the equipment can be attributed to these kind of problems,” Chow said. “However, I still feel its management’s responsibility to fix these problems.”
Carson’s General Manager Corrine Aguilar said Cold Hold violations occur when they are changing food over and it “takes time for the temperature to settle.”
Aguilar said outdated equipment is the reason for the Hot Hold violations.
In an e-mail, Assistant Director of Finance Brenda Carpenter said in most cases, OCCC will repair equipment when possible.
“However, on those occasions when repairs are not considered feasible or are not cost effective, the college does buy new equipment,” Carpenter said.
“The college takes all health department violations seriously. When a violation occurs, the college, in conjunction with Carson’s, takes whatever action is necessary to correct the condition that resulted in a violation,” she said.
“Past violations have always been handled promptly and did not pose any risk to food safety or consumers’ health.”
Carson’s took over the food service contract with OCCC in January 2006. The Coffee Shop opened in August 2007, Carpenter said.
Aguilar, who has been with Carson’s since 2007, said there have been improvements in OCCC’s health inspection reports since her time here.
She said any violations found at Carson’s or the coffee shop are immediately corrected.
“In OCCC’s 30 years, things have improved dramatically,” Aguilar said.
“We use daily cleaning lists, daily sanitation lists and have used new exterminators which have improved things greatly.”
Aguilar said she hasn’t received any complaints from customers.
“‘No one has come to Carson’s and complained of any sickness,” she said.
Carpenter said Carson’s customers are top priority.
“Carson’s takes safety and health concerns very seriously,” she said. “Both the college and Carson’s has the students’ best interests at heart and will continue to work diligently to ensure that no major health violations occur in the cafeteria.”
Students didn’t seem to be deterred by the findings.
Paige Waggoner, 18, undeclared major, said, even though she is aware of the violations, she feels Carson’s is a better option than the competitors.
“It seems better than other options. I once found a fingernail in my burger at McDonald’s.”
Jesse Bowsher, 18, undeclared major, said he works in the food service industry and the campus violations do not disturb him.
“Knowing what I know over which violations are serious and which are not — Carson’s would not be open if they did not fix the violations.”
Health inspection records can be found online at www.phin.state.ok.us/inspections. To find OCCC, select Oklahoma Country in the drop-down menu, then, type in OCCC or Carsons in the search window.